From the March 7 WT DRP:
3.0 Private Development Proposal: 1 York Street
Project Type: Buildings/Structures
Location: 1 York Street
Proponent: Menkes Developments Ltd.
Architect/Designer: architectsAlliance (aA) with Sweeny Sterling Finlayson & Co. Architects Inc. (&Co)
Review Stage: Conceptual/Schematic Design
Review Round: One
Presenter(s): Peter Clewes, architectsAlliance
Delegation: Mark Sterling, &Co.; Adam Feldman, aA; David Copeland, &Co.; Jude Tersigni, Menkes
3.1 Introduction to the Issues
James Parakh, Urban Designer with the City of Toronto introduced the project noting that the proposed development will occupy an entire city block in close proximity to the waterfront. Mr. Parakh added that the development will contain an exciting mix of uses which are distinct yet complimentary to each other. Mr. Parakh then asked the Panel to please comment on the following:
a) Grade Relationship: How well does the buildings ground floor plan integrate the various programmatic uses with each other and with the surrounding public realm. Consider set backs on York Street, relationship to the Gardiner and vehicular access throughout the site.
b) Base: Please comment on the design of the base (podium) of the towers, and its ability to form an articulated yet unifying street wall. Please comment on the animation of the street wall, and in particular it’s relationship with the future improved city park to the south.
c) Top: Please comment on the design of the towers and their role in contributing to the skyline character of the downtown. Should there be any variation to the heights of the residential tower?
3.2 Project Presentation
Peter Clewes, Principal with architects Alliance, introduced the project noting that this presentation was intended to cover both the Conceptual and Schematic design reviews. Mr. Clewes then presented the development program and proposed schedule, noting that they are hoping to start construction in October 2012. Mr. Clewes then presented the design including floor plans, elevations and views, concluding with the sustainability framework.
3.3 Panel Questions
The Chair then asked the Panel for questions of clarification only.
One Panel member asked what the facing distance was between the two residential towers. Mr. Clewes answered that though the Tall Buildings Guidelines stipulate a 25m minimum, they are proposing 17m, feeling that a case could be made for a reduced distance because the towers are offset.
Another Panel member asked if 20m was an appropriate distance between the residential tower and the commercial tower. Mr. Clewes replied that he felt that it was appropriate, given that many City streets are 20m wide. Another Panel member asked if the lights from the office tower at night would affect the residents in the towers adjacent. Mr. Clewes stated that they could design features to mitigate the potential impacts.
Another Panel member wondered why the team was going for a 70 storey tower. Mr. Clewes answered that with over 1 Billion dollars in investment into the transit hub (Union Station), they felt that the location warranted the investment, adding that 70 stories is the maximum that the tower could structurally be.
Another Panel member asked if the building face was set back the same distance as the Maple Leaf Square development to the north. Mr. Clewes stated that the development is set back the same distance (5.0m) from the property line as Maple Leaf square, noting that perhaps the property lines on the development parcels are not aligned, making it appear closer to York Street.
One Panel member asked if the design team had considered aligning the West façade of the building with York Street. Mr. Clewes stated that currently they had not, adding that they can look at it.
Another Panel member wondered why the design team had chosen to locate the “PATH” connection on the North side of the building instead of the South side. Mr. Clewes stated that he could not confidently answer that, noting that it could have been due to the fact that there was retail frontage on the South façade.
Another Panel member asked if thermal breaks for the balconies were intended, adding that they should be factored into the cost of the development. Mr. Clewes stated that he did not believe thermal breaks had been designed or priced, adding that the balconies are intended to provide passive solar shading for the units.
3.4 Panel Comments
The Chair then opened the meeting to Panel comments.
Several Panel members felt that there should be a consistent public realm treatment and setbacks along York Street.
One Panel member stated that they would like to see more definition in the expression of the building façade. Another Panel member agreed, feeling that the complexities of the site were not expressed in the architecture. Another Panel member agreed, feeling that there was no nuance to the towers as they seemed to be following developer norms.
One Panel member noted that the notch out of the North-West corner of the building is what is actually aligned with the Maple Leaf Square development, not the West facade. Another Panel member felt that York Street should open up at this point instead of creating a pinch point.
Another Panel member felt that digitizing the surface of the building could be extraordinary, provided that attention was paid to ensuring the patterning does not get cut off at the corners.
One Panel member stated that in a cold climate regime, the benefits from adding thermal breaks to the balconies far outweighs the shading benefits that the balconies would provide in the summer, adding that the incremental cost of the thermal breaks was relatively small when compared with the price of the units. The Panel member asked that the EUI (Energy Use Intensity) be provided at the next presentation.
Several Panel members felt that there was a lost opportunity in not making the double skin performative in nature. Another Panel member urged to team to consider the Long Term Flexibility of the building, stating that it may not be residential or office 75 years from now.
Another Panel member stated their preference in reading the residential towers as one element instead of two.
One Panel member noted that the Gardiner Expressway and Lake Shore Boulevard are now public elevations to address instead of building barriers to.
Another Panel member felt that how the office building and podium address York Street is successful. Some Panel members felt that the West Elevation should be parallel to York Street. One Panel member felt that the Podium should align with York, but that the office tower did not necessarily have to. One Panel member felt that the notch out of the corner of the North West corner of the building was not helping the scheme.
Another Panel member felt that the East elevation should pay more respect to the Harbour Commissioners building. Another Panel member felt that the North Elevation should have a better relationship to Union Square. Another Panel member felt that there should be more differentiation in the building facades, and the way in which the external spaces are expressed.
One Panel member felt that the single loaded PATH connection would give more back to the public realm if it was on the south side instead of being along the Gardiner Expressway as currently proposed. Another Panel member agreed. Another Panel member disagreed, feeling that there was not much else to animate the North elevation. Another Panel member felt that the retail display windows on the South elevation were not successful. Another Panel member agreed, wondering if there was way to reconcile the retail on the South side of the building to become more of a public space with views of the park.
Another Panel member felt that there should be an at-grade crossing at Lake Shore Boulevard, noting that the distance from York Street to Bay Street is quite far. Another Panel member suggested that the City should also consider a public space along the East side of the property.
Several Panel members felt that the proposed spacing between the towers was too close. One Panel member felt that the building should have a great “top”, adding that the extra height should be earned with an architecturally interesting building. Another Panel member agreed, feeling that the overall character of the office building was monotonous and perfunctory in nature and should be more expressive.
3.5 Summary of the Panel’s Key Issues
The Chair then summarized the recommendations of the Panel:
1) Show how the building links to the existing and proposed context and streetscape.
2) Come back with deliberate analysis of now the building responds to York Street. Do not create a pinch point.
3) Stronger consideration of the appropriate distance between the residential towers and the office tower should be given.
4) Study the potential East Side connection through the block.
5) Study the response and connection from Union Station
6) Study the location of the Path
7) Top of the building needs development.
8) Stronger architectural solution for the towers
9) Study the potential to create a more sustainable building, including thermal breaks on the balconies.
3.6 Proponents Response
Mr. Clewes thanked the Panel for their feedback.
3.7 Vote of Support/Non-Support
The Chair then asked the Panel for a vote of support or non-support for the project. The Panel voted in Conditional Support of the project.
1 York / 90 Harbour - Twin 70 floor towers and 39 Floor Office Development.